Who says there’s not much good news in these days of pandemic and crushed economy?
Years of despair at the closing of a mecca for fresh vegetables, Reed’s Farm, this month turned into joyful anticipation of a revived and wonderful version of it.
A new nonprofit called Meaningful Purpose will develop the Egg Harbor Township property into an organic farm that also will host rescued animals and two CARING Inc. group homes for residents with special needs or developmental disabilities. The farm will provide opportunities for work in sustainable farming for the residents and other CARING Inc. clients, as well as for volunteers.
The people behind Meaningful Purpose who developed this creative plan include Cookie Till, owner of Steve and Cookie’s by the Bay restaurant in Margate; Lenny Varvaro, owner of Pay Less Liquors in Atlantic City; and health care executive Beth Senay. Meaningful Purpose then partnered with CARING Inc., which purchased the farm in February.
The new venture will keep the Reed’s Farm name to honor the family that for more than a century had grown and sold vegetables to the nearby Mainland and Absecon Island communities.
Reed Brothers Farm started in 1907, and in 1978 opened a roadside produce market that became a gathering place. Just about everything in vegetables — tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, watermelons, string beans, broccoli, peas, cabbage, asparagus, cantaloupe, spinach and romaine lettuce — were grown in the adjacent fields and sold at the market. On the Fourth of July weekend it would sell 3,000 ears of corn.
Then Bill Reed, a grandson of founder William L. Reed, died in 2014 and the market didn’t open the following year. His older brother who started the market, Robert, had died in 2004 and Robert's wife Janis Reed said their children weren’t available to take over, having made careers in pharmacy, education and biotech sales.
The growth of the new Reed’s Farm will be slowed by the pandemic. The first sprouts have been a small greenhouse, some animals and some vegetables for sale. Later will come the group homes, a horse barn and a community center.
The drive along this rural-looking section of Spruce Road had become wistfully sad, remembering the years so many enjoyed easy local access to the freshest produce before the farm and market closed.
Now it brings happy anticipation and provides an uplifting reminder that good people often do save the day, even when there seems to be no hope.